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Sexual dysfunction and diabetes

Sexual problems (sexual dysfunction) are common among people with diabetes, particularly in older men who have had diabetes for years. In addition, many medical experts believe that women with diabetes experience sexual difficulties as a result of complications from the disease.

People who experience sexual difficulties can lead more enjoyable, fulfilling sexual lives by learning about common causes and symptoms of sexual difficulties, treatment options, and how to talk it over with a doctor or mate. If you wonder if some of the problems you are experiencing may be symptoms of sexual dysfunction, take our quiz.

How common is the problem?

  • At any given time an estimated 30 million American men experience impotence (erectile dysfunction), defined as the inability to achieve or maintain an erection sufficient for intercourse more frequent than one out of four times. Sexual difficulties in people with diabetes are not always related to their disease.
  • Impotence can occur in men of any age, but it most often affects older men. A recent study* of 1,300 males found some degree of erection difficulty in 52 percent of participants ages 40 to 70.
  • Over 50 percent of the estimated 10 million men with diagnosed type 2 diabetes experience impotence.
  • In men whose diabetes is well controlled, the rate of impotence is about 30 percent.
  • Approximately 35 percent of women with diabetes may experience some form of sexual dysfunction related to their disease.
  • Of people with complications from diabetes, 50 to 70 percent of men and 40 to 50 percent of women may have sexual difficulties because of nerve damage.

*H.A. Feldman, I. Goldstein, D.G. Hatzichristou, R.J. Krane, J.B. McKinley. Impotence and its medical and psychological correlates: Results of the Massachusetts Male Aging Study. J Urol 151: 54-61, 1994.

Page last updated: April 23, 2014